SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 13 (UPI) — The number of Chinook salmon returning to California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin river system to spawn hit a record low last fall, fisheries biologists say.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries service reported 39,530 Chinook in the fall run, down from 64,456 in 2008 and 87,940 in 2007, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The three-year period was the worst since the government began recording salmon numbers in the 1970s.
“It is devastating to see a number like this,” said Dick Pool, a fishing equipment manufacturer and regional director of the American Sportfishing Association. “When we look to the future, it really portends trouble for these fish.”
Chinook salmon, also known as king salmon, spawn in freshwater. Their offspring spend three years in the ocean before returning to the river where they were born to spawn and die.
Scientists say they believe the Chinook salmon is getting a double hit, with water diversions for agriculture in the Sacramento-San Joaquin system killing many young fish and weakening the survivors. When they arrive in the Pacific, a warmer ocean provides less nutrition.
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